M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, October 20, 2005  

Stuff It

I don't consider myself a picky eater.

I lost my parents right there in the first sentence. My dad's going to call me later and tell me, "I think someone hacked your blog." But it's true. I don't consider myself a picky eater. Any more.

I'm the first to admit that I used to be. Food had to be just right or I wanted nothing to do with it. Maybe part of that is a child's love of routine and safety. "I don't like X" was synonymous with "I've never tried X," and there were any number of family meals that were interminably protracted by my refusal to try something new.

But I don't consider myself a picky eater any more. If I go to a new restaurant, you know what I'm most likely to order? The thing with a sauce that I've never heard of. Unless there's another thing with a sauce named after the restaurant I'm at, in which case it's a foregone conclusion that that's what I'm having, and bring me some extra [name of restaurant] sauce on the side, please.

Trash might say I'm still a picky eater. I disagree. Not because there are foods I don't like. Quite the contrary. There are entire wings of the food pyramid I don't like. Most fruits, most vegetables. And sushi. But that doesn't make me picky. A person with dislikes that broad can't be considered picky. "Prejudiced" might be more accurate. Never tried ugli fruit, never going to, because I know it's going to make me gag. It's the same way with you and liver cheese. You know you're not going to get along, so why let yourself in for the heartbreak?

That said, I like food that most people hate. I like hospital cafeteria food. I like airplane food. I like movie-theater nachos. I like vending-machine sandwiches. A bar we used to go to had three-for-a-dollar taco night on Thursdays, which everyone loved. But I was the only one who also loved the three-for-a-dollar hamburgers you got on Mondays, and the three-for-a-dollar sloppy joes on Tuedays that had been three-for-a-dollar hamburgers the night before.

(Nobody ever let me expound on my theories as to what happened to the meat between Tuesday and Thursday to complete the transformation to tacos. Everyone preferred to think the cycle began on Thursday and the hamburgers were what happened to the tacos after a long, dissolute weekend. Whatevs, Candide.)

This has advantages, as you can imagine. For one, I never have to be hungry. For another, I never have to be poor, because the less I paid for what I'm shoving down my cakehole, the happier I am.

So for years I've been bringing different varieties of Hot Pockets™ to work for lunch. They're ideal for my desk-dining purposes: easy, cheap, portable, microwaveable, reliable, perfectly tasty to my caveman palate, and completely untempting to would-be lunch thieves. Years I've been eating these, occasionally mixing things up with leftovers or a brace of frozen burritos or maybe a microwaveable pot pie (or a vanishingly rare lunch out). But Hot Pockets are the staple of my weekday lunch diet.

And then last year, we discovered this off-brand grocery store called Aldi (another entry in itself, so remind me one day), where the Hot Pockets are called "stuffed sandwiches" and are even cheaper! Joy! Every time we go to Aldi we stack them in our quarter-deposit shopping cart and bring them home and stuff them into the upstairs and downstairs freezer, and then a few weeks later go back for more. Ideal!

Except that now I can't stand the things.

I know exactly what happened. I'm not blaming Aldi, because their stuffed sandwiches taste exactly as good as the name-brand product, if not better. It's because I've relied on one food item too heavily the past year, failing to include enough other things in the rotation. Trash and I don't cook for ourselves or eat out as much since M. Small was born, so there are fewer leftovers. And the Aldi stuffed sandwiches are cheaper than just about anything else, so I loaded up on those recklessly. Now I view them the way I viewed Subway sandwiches after six months of living directly above a Subway shop: gagworthy. The good news is after moving out of that place, I was quickly able to eat Subways again. So I gave myself a week and a half of from my stuffed sandwiches, but that didn't begin to dent the antipathy I feel towards them now. I tried to choke down a couple the other day, but I couldn't do it. You know how lunch is a break from work? I found myself constantly putting down my fork and turning back to work as a break from my lunch.

So obviously the thing to do is start going down to the expensive restaurant in my office building for lunch every day. I'll work my way through every thirty-odd dollar item on the lunch menu until I can't stand it any more, then move on to the next. It'll be spendy in the short term, but in the long run I'll save money. Because after thirty or forty years of surf & turf, I'll be ready to greet those .89¢ stuffed sandwiches like old, really cheap friends.

Today's best search phrase: "an essay for Britneys Spears' trash for fan treasure." I don't know what's more depressing: that kids can download their homework off the Internet, or that they get assignments like this.

posted by M. Giant 5:40 PM 18 comments


Ahhh, Aldi. The original home brand store.

I can sympathise. I too love to eat cheap food, and the tight ass that lurks in side me was delighted when I started uni and found the torpedo cafe - a roll with lttuce, tomato, caroot and your choice of meat, for only $2! So I ate my salami and salad rolls happliy for about a year, and then , one day, I just couldn't take a bite.

I had to go to Subway and get one of those new chicken parmigana subs instead. A sad day for my wallet, but a happy day for my tastebuds.

By Blogger Antipodean, at October 20, 2005 at 6:24 PM  

Hee, Aldi! I've only ever been there once with my parents. Ours occasionally has computers and other bizarrely unexpected things for sale. And lots and lots of Amish patrons. The Amish people come to town in their horse-drawn buggies to visit Aldi and Wal-Mart. This alone makes Aldi both completely awesome and something to be avoided.

By Anonymous Cory, at October 20, 2005 at 9:03 PM  

I get food-fatigue.

For two years in high school, I ate 2 minute noodles (oriental, with the occasional chicken) for breakfast. Then one day, I just couldn't eat any more. So I switched to these microwave beef hotpots. Lasted 18 months - I'd have one every morning, until one day, I couldn't stomach it. I lasted 3 terms at school this year (30 weeks) eating peanut butter on corn thins. Early in 4th term, I was lifting my corn thin to my mouth, and I just couldn't bring myself to bite down. I had to go to the canteen that day.

Since then, I've been eating Wokka noodles - I alternate between honey&soy, and peanut. I wonder how long they'll last.

By Blogger alivicwil, at October 20, 2005 at 10:37 PM  

You like airline food? That's it, I'll never come here again!

Aldi is a Belgian chain of supermarkets, you can find them everywhere here. If you're really into extremely cheap food, try their own brand Wiener sausages. You get a total refund if you come accross any real meat.


By Anonymous Bart, at October 21, 2005 at 5:23 AM  

Aldi is awesome. The Northern Irish version is called Lidl, and they're essentially the same, full of german biscuits and cheap alcohol and massive boxes of washing powder. I don't know if they do this in Aldi, but in Lidl every week they buy in a load of random crap from some wholesalers. One week it'll be hard drives, the next it'll be garden furniture, the week after that it'll be wellington boots. Anyway, they advertise it really intensively in the local papers and when the crap goes on sale people queue up to buy it, even though it's on sale in regular shops all year round. Their marketing dude must be some kind of crazy genius or something.

By Anonymous Roisin Muldoon, at October 21, 2005 at 5:48 AM  

I'm so with you on the big-cheap-food bandwagon.

However it does lead to heart-breaking cases of "If I have eat this one more time I will pull out my own eyes and eat then instead".

The worst case I ever had was on a summer vacation when I was 10 where the local store decided to sell jelly donuts for 10 cents a piece.

$1.00 in my pocket
10 cents a donut
No more jelly donuts for 15 years

By Anonymous sween, at October 21, 2005 at 6:09 AM  

Oh, Aldi. I've got to go there this weekend for bananas and oatmeal and wheat bread. We love their produce and dry goods -- cheaper (and much more politically correct) than Mal-Wart and much better quality.

Plus, if they still have that iPod shuffle on sale for $59.99, I may get it. Just as a backup, you understand.

Smooch M. Small for us!

~ grandefille ~

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 21, 2005 at 6:21 AM  

Here in Germany, we have Aldi AND Lidl. woo hoo for us. But our cats like the Aldi brand cat food, so that right there is a major savings for us each month.

By Blogger Nee S., at October 21, 2005 at 7:03 AM  

We can one up you on the aldi (which is pretty sweet regardless) - we (up until a year ago) had a company called "Jaydon". No one knew what this place was, but occasionally, it would pop up on this list of "top employers" in our area. I can remember driving past it with my father since I was born and asking what it was. He always said, "I don't know".

To make a long story short, I found out from some white trash relatives of mine what it was. "You can get you some vittles there for cheap." (Alright, maybe they didn't exaclty say that, but that's how I remember it). What they meant was there was a section of the giant warehouse that operated like a grocery store. Probably the grossest, dirtiest, gutter-slum, tooth-optional, store there ever was.

Inside, they sold extremely random things like food and toys and some odd clothing-type things. But the "catch" was that all of these items were damaged. Literally, stuff that had fallen out of trucks or had lost labels, etc. I'm completely serious - you could go into this "store" and buy tin cans of food without a label on it. Hmmmm, is it peaches or dog food? Or a shirt with a missing arm or a tire track on it. Toys with obviously busted up parts. Some food was recognizeable but broken up like spaghetti or crushed boxes of cake mix, so those were generally safe. But you would see people buying the no-label cans by the cart full. It was better than playing on the casino boats we have. But stuff was dirt-ass cheap. Like you could do your grocery shopping for a month and not pay more than $30.

What I eventually surmised was that Jaydon was a sort of trucking/shipping company and when they knocked a pallete of canned goods over, they brought it into the "store". I still don't know if I'm right, but it makes some bit of sense. But no one ever saw anything coming or going from this place. It was a bit odd, for sure. You would have loved it...

By Anonymous Chao, at October 21, 2005 at 8:44 AM  

I once ran a bed and breakfast, and due to a contractual agreement I had to make 2 trays of lasagne twice a week for 13 weeks. That was 12 years ago and I have never made it, eaten it or wanted it again. Proof that even good food goes bad...

By Blogger ElleStarr, at October 21, 2005 at 11:23 AM  

I don't think we're addressing the really important issue here. You eat your Hot Pockets (or reasonable facsimile thereof) with a fork?

By Anonymous Kim, at October 21, 2005 at 12:05 PM  


My friends mothers shop at aldi, i am still a school person so every recess my frinds and i are presented with, choch musili non name brand bars....hmmm..not good.

I have a very similar story with a breakfast cereal
i used to eat Musli Flakes for breakfast every day, for about 8 years, then one morning, i just couldn't, i relised Musli Flakes are disgusting... really gross actually, i've tried to go back to them, but i come back to the same resloution

Eat weetbix

By Blogger Danae, at October 22, 2005 at 12:32 AM  

Swanson $.99 Chicken Pot Pies. Delicious. I'm back on them after a 5 year hiatus.

By Anonymous emily, at October 22, 2005 at 1:48 PM  

I heard from an anonymous source that Aldi's owns Trader Joe's. Which would explain many of the things I find odd, yet endearing, about Trader Joe's. Gosh, I guess the Aldi people really put one over on us yuppies.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 23, 2005 at 3:37 PM  

Dude! We have an Aldi in College Town, New England! I got some 'Wafferneusen' (which are awesome wafers with hazelnut and chocolate) for 79 cents. (What, does Germany have the world's supply of hazelnuts? Why do we merely toss them into old lady drinks?) Also a half-kilo of Gummi bears, for 99 cents. And they had an iPod Shuffle in a glass case for $79. If I had not read this entry, I would have been confuddled. Thanks, MG!

By Blogger Febrifuge, at October 25, 2005 at 9:51 AM  

I have always avoided Aldi because it looked like it would be fancy and expensive, just another Lunds - the store near my home in Richfield even shares a parking lot with Linds, I think. Now I know better, so thanks for the tip.

By Anonymous Tim, at October 28, 2005 at 8:19 AM  

Aldi's actually a fantastic German discount store, and yes, they do own Trader Joe's. Besides being a lovely market full of random inexpensive goods, they are also excellent employers, I've heard.

My favortie things about Aldi are from shopping there in Germany - 1) they have insanely cheap alcohol of all varieties, and I stock up every time I go; 2) when I was there this summer at the beginning of July, they had a sale on "American-style" foods which included cashews, peanut butter, cranberry juice, potato wedges, popcorn, ribs and pancake and muffin mix. It was completely awesome to see how American cuisine is interpreted overseas.

By Blogger BB, at November 2, 2005 at 2:21 PM  

I had a food allergy until I was about 10 or 12. I basically couldn't eat anything with wheat, rye, oats, or barley in it. Hence, most store-bought cookies were a no-no to me. When my mother found Archway Coconut Macaroons (basically just packaged coconut balls), she bought them every week. It was very sweet of Mom to do that, and they were great at first. And I ate them...every week.

Now, almost 20 years later, even just seeing a package of ACM now makes me want to gag.

But Aldi is the most awesome place. The food is so dirt cheap and most everything tastes like its name-brand counterpart. My husband contends that they make the world's best ice cream sandwiches. During the poorer phases in our married life, I honestly don't know how we'd have eaten without Aldi. They're even getting some lower fat/calorie/carb/cholesterol foods in now too. But their bagels suck.

By Blogger Emily, at November 3, 2005 at 6:56 AM  

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