Congratulations, Campbell's Portobello Mushroom Madeira Bisque!! You have won the prize for having been one of the worst things I have ever had inside my mouth. (And I've had some pretty gnarly things in my mouth.)
I'm not above doing a Duane Reade lunch every now again; especially if the food options are stagnant in the establishments surrounding my office building or my wallet can't handle more than $3 or $4 for my midday meal. I've went through a phase where I was regularly slurping down Italian Wedding Soup, New England Clam Chowder, or Grilled Burger Stew from one of those microwavable environmentally unfriendly containers that come out piping hot in under three minutes from the office nuker. With a few dashes of hot sauce at my desk and a plastic spoon I probably swiped from the cafeteria on the 6th floor, I'm all set to have a quick, satisfactory bite that will hold me over until I can get something better for dinner.
It's not to say I'm recommending this kind of diet to anyone for any reason. It's loaded with sodium. None of them taste outrageously delicious. They're all pretty greasy. And I'm sure all that microwaving isn't doing anyone any good.
With that being said, I've had Chunky, Healthy Choice, and Campbell's Select Harvest. Chunky is my favorite for taste, but I've bought all of them about equally. Every now and then when I'm REALLY broke, I'll break down and buy a Cup a Noodle, but we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to an affordable meal.
Anyway, as I was browsing the food aisle of my local Duane Reade, looking for my affordable lunch, I noticed they added a new line of Campbell's; a MUSHROOM soup that looked all gourmet and tasty. I forked over my last $4 and looked forward to my lunch.
Let me tell you why this is the worst thing I've ever had in my life. First off, as I was reading to see how long it would take to zap it hot, I noticed that it said the container was not microwavable. I had to find a bowl, and my tupperware/candy dish had to be emptied and washed out so it would serve. When it came out of the microwave, it didn't smell particularly delicious. After one spoonful, it didn't taste very delicious. I shook some pepper into it. I tasted. Ick. I took out my crushed red pepper and garlic powder, usually reserved for pizza and gave it some shakes. A taste. Yuck. Still bland. More black pepper. More crushed pepper flakes. More garlic. Still a big, ugly, beige bowl of blandness. Not only was the flavor (or lack thereof) off-putting, but the texture of the various mushrooms were just downright unpleasant. Not quite rubbery or slimy. It just disintegrated into mush in your mouth with very little bite. Six or seven spoons were 6 or 7 spoons too much. I dumped the rest into the trash. (I'm sorry, starving people of the world! This is not very charitable or thoughtful of me!)
Never again. Just goes to show you that no matter how fancy a company makes their product out to be, you just can't polish a turd.
Speaking of bad taste, I'm going to go off on a little tangent here because I had one of these weirdo experiences late last week that left me a little shook up. Because I have been known to be one of those over-nurturing control freaks with my partners, many of my ex's doctors still have my information on file. I received a large package of medical records along with MRI dvd's, xrays, and lab reports. When I opened it and realized what it all was, I sent my ex a text only to find out his cell was changed or cut off or whatever. I don't know where he lives now; just that he lives with his new old woman. He doesn't use the internet for anything. He isn't listed.
I've thankfully fallen into this rut where I care a whole lot less about trying to be a savior. After doing due diligence to try and contact him, there really wasn't much else I could do. I re-wrapped the package and decided I was going to mail it back to the doctors office. I didn't have to wait long before my ex called me at work to ask if his package was sent to me. I haven't spoken to him in months, and he wasn't very happy with me the last time we did, so I wasn't thrown off by the frosty exchange.
I met up with him after work to give him his stuff. He tried to talk me into dinner, but I declined and he had that look about him that he knew I would say no. He offered me a ride home, and I declined again. He looked me square in the eye and said something like, "I'm not going to touch you, if that's what you're worried about. And it's pouring."
Tired from my day and aching pretty badly from my new sneakers, I caved and hopped in. (It really was raining like a mofo that day, and of course, I didn't have an umbrella.) It was a tense drive home through traffic with not many words flying back and forth between us. To top it all off, he had some homemade mixed-cd with nothing but country music. I don't really have a hatred of the genre. It's just not exactly my best category on Song Pop, you know? But if you're already irritated in the company of someone who can only irritate you even further, the last thing I personally want to hear blasting over cheap speakers is the country twang of a Nashville pop song.
My ex has a liking for smooth, female, slow, ballad-type music. I don't know where his new love of all things country came from, but I wasn't willing to get into it with him. His renewed love of the Born Again Cult of Bible Thumping has shown him many new experiences that he seems to enjoy in his retirement, so who am I to scoff at them....out loud, anyway. At one point, he was rambling about some church trip out to Texas sometime next year. I looked out the window at the traffic to keep the look of "Are you friggin' kidding me?" from registering on my face via eye-roll. He ends the subject with, "I've always wanted to go to Texas." It was the last statement on the matter when I didn't answer him.
Five minutes away from my house, one particular song came on and I had one freaky encounter.
Here are the words:
I've never heard this song before. It had a pretty melody, and the woman has a lovely voice. It wasn't until the second or third verse in that I realized what the hell she was singing about. And that's when it hit me; like a fucking punch in my gut.
It was years and years ago. I was still working at my culinary school and working full time at my job. It was a time when I spent all my free time getting drunk and waking up on a train in the middle of Brooklyn; hung over and pretty fucking pathetic. It was one of the many times I had left my husband (again) and was alternating weeks staying at a friend's apartment and renting cheap motel rooms. It didn't matter because I wasn't sleeping much anyway.
Joel and I started our thing.
At first, he was just the ride home I really didn't need. Was I tired and far from where I needed to be? Yeah, but it wasn't like I couldn't get myself home or was physically incapable of doing it. A ride home in a car someone else was driving with the heat blasting on a cold winter night and full control of the radio is like riding home in a fully loaded Escalade instead of a packed subway car with no available seats. I opted for the comfort instead of being a martyr.
So, back when I was still 24- young, sexy, head-strung...and tired of being married- I stepped into that man's car, let him drive me home, and invited him in...and kept him there with me all night. I didn't care that he was still sorting out his own marital status. I didn't care that the right thing to do was probably encourage him to go back home. Well, actually when it was all just sex and goodies, I told him he should go home to her and make things right. When he asked me what the hell we were doing with each other if that's how I felt, I said, "We're just having fun, right?"
But, after months and months of a man treating me well, I decided that "fun" was a lot nicer to have than misery. He drove me everywhere. He bought me anything I needed, because I never wanted for anything. I didn't even have to say I was hungry before he had food within my reach. He made me stop drinking. He made me stop partying. He made me take school more seriously. He made me give up a lot of my friends, albeit friends who were probably not taking me anywhere positive, but I let them go in exchange for his company. It was nice being with a man who knew how to treat a woman. There's also the other factor where he was good friends with my family and did them many, many solids over the years...but that's a whole other story that I'm not getting into.
Because of certain circumstances going on in his marriage, which I won't bother getting into either, he wouldn't give me a solid commitment, the way I had given him. We argued about it a little, but the longer this went on, the more heated our debates would get. It was our 6 month "anniversary" since our "first" time, and he went all out. He reserved an awesome room at a very posh hotel in the city. Rose petals on the bed. Flowers all over the room. A beautiful view. And room service. I'll never forget it. Ginger ale (because I stopped drinking), lobster, and the most fantastic mushroom tortellini with peas and pancetta in a rich and creamy alfredo sauce. Forever in my mind will be imprinted how delicious that tortellini was. It was so good, I ate all of mine, some of his, and was wishing there was more of that instead of the lobster. He called down for another plate of it. We were in the middle of...uh...working some of that dinner off when his phone rang.
It's the kind of call that the Other Woman always dreads while in mid-coitus with their married man. (If we're going to get technical, I was still married myself, but I was under the impression we had both made clean breaks long before all this went down, and it was clear that his break was neither actually broken or clean.) I sat under the silken covers the of the rose petal littered bed and watched him pull his clothes back on. I couldn't believe he was leaving...RIGHT NOW. It was our 6 month Sexiversary for God's sake!!
I yelled at him. I cursed him out. I threatened him. I cried. He didn't raise his voice or curse me back once. He sat on the bed, tried to embrace me, and again attempted to explain why he had to go and that he wouldn't be long and that he would be back and I just needed to give him a little more time to do all the things he promised he would do. I slapped his hand away from me, spit some nasty insult at him, buried my nakedness under the covers, my back towards him and told him to go. I didn't need him anyway. I felt him lay a chaste kiss on my shoulder and he was gone.
Not five minutes after he left, there was a knock at the door. Before I could even think or find clothes or anything, a heavily accented voice on the other side yelled through, "Ma'am your husband said to just leave the cart out here with your food. He already tipped me. I just need to let you know it's out here. Please let me know if you need anything else."
After a little deliberation and some choking ugly crying, I pulled on my little nightie and cracked the door open. Just as he promised, the rolling table was out there with a covered dish. I pulled it in and inspected it to see the tortellini plate, still hot and steaming. I was hungry...crying can take a lot out of a girl. I picked up the dish and sat on the bed, turning the television on, hoping to distract myself.
The hotel sent up a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine on the house for our anniversary, along with the tortellini plate. (Champagne is from France. If it's from any other region; it's only sparkling wine.) The tortellini was no longer delicious. While it was still the same flavor and textures that I fell in love with not an hour before, my tongue and senses no longer felt the same way about it. It felt heavy and sticky in my mouth- like wadded newspaper sauced with glue. I think all my sadness and loneliness poured out onto that dish (figuratively).
I never ate it again. I never made it again. It went from being my favorite comfort food in the world to being the one thing that can bring tears to my eyes just from the aroma.
I did, however, break my sobriety and downed that sparkling wine like a drowning woman. Big mistake. I was never a huge champagne fan to begin with, and coming off from being 6 months sober didn't make me such a bad ass with the bottle. I got violently ill not long after and the entire dinner along with the cheap sparkling wine came back up into the fancy toilet in the oversized luxury bathroom.
Hearing that song above did the strangest thing to me in that car with that man. I could SMELL that tortellini dish. I could taste it and nearly feel that sticky, heavy sauce on my tongue. It was so visceral, I nearly gagged. My stomach rolled. I could feel the bile rising up my throat.
I think it's staggering how our minds can control our senses. I let music affect me a lot. The right lyrics set to the right melody sang by the right voice will take my heart or mind to places far away from where my physical body is at that moment. Smells and tastes do the same thing to me. I can remember a reisling I had once in Salem, Mass at a seafood restaurant. It wasn't a particularly expensive reisling or even the best reisling I've ever had. It was good. But, it was such a nice time and the company I was in was so awesome (at the time), I can still feel the tight pucker of my mouth when that wine hit my tongue. And when I found it later on in NY and had it in a wine glass in a little apartment paired up with a Grandma slice of pizza- it still tasted like the best damn thing I've ever had in my entire life.
Good feelings can be evoked, as well as bad one's. I can't eat Spam. Ever. Or Vienna sausages. It reminds me of when my parents didn't have any food in the house and our breakfast, lunch, and dinner was stale rice with fried Spam or Vienna sausages. We would have to eat that until one of my parent's next paycheck. And it wasn't even that it was gross. I've tasted worse. It was the anxiety in my house and the fighting they did, and I knew that things were not okay and that money was an issue. I can still remember laying in my bed and hearing my dad yell about the house being taken away and all of us being homeless. And I would wake up to see my mom fried up a new batch of rice and Spam. My stomach would be in knots from the stress of what was going on. So, Spam will never be a staple in my fallout shelter.
Neither will Chef Boyardi microwave ravioli. I would eat that during my CVS days when I only had $15 to spend on food for the whole week so I would have enough of my paycheck left to pay for tokens (before the days of Metrocards) and pay my rent.
I wonder if other people have such crazy reactions to food or smells the way I do when certain emotions are evoked or if the food can trigger emotions to start screaming within them. I've met men who cannot eat certain things because it reminds them of a bad childhood. My friend's ex-husband remembered how his family would kill a chicken once a week back in his home country, and that traumatized him from eating chicken EVER again. He won't do it. My ex hated polenta. It's not really my cup of tea, but he had to eat it once in culinary school during our Italian module, and he nearly puked. He tasted, and then excused himself so he could spit it out in the bathroom without insulting our chef. He wouldn't get into it, but from what his mom told me, the old grocery where he worked at when he was 10 would give him free milk, bread, and polenta every week along with his pay. So, polenta was a big staple in their home, until one day he said he never wanted to eat it again.
Truthfully, the rules society puts down will probably behoove to eat things at nibble on something that I may really not want to, and I can do it with a smile on my face without dying. I'm just more concerned about not offending someone rather than my fragile psyche. But, when there is no one's feelings to worry about or a dinner party that I need to behave at; it would take a miracle for me to willingly eat someone on my Cannot Stomach List.
So, am I nuts or does everyone have that ONE food that they just can't get past their gullet?