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Reminiscing With The Damned: The Moral Gag Reflex of the 1950s

There is more to life than buttery sandwiches packed with sexy pork products and enough Sriracha to make a Thailand hog badger blush. Indeed, more to life than burying one's head in a bucket of fried chicken in order to escape the deadly girth of everything awful in the world.Yes, so much more than food. What a gut-wrenching realization.

I've been writing and reporting for various community-based weekly newspapers for about five years, though at times it feels like I've spent at least twice as many years moping around this ink-stained existence. In that time, I've written for two newspapers in Queens and, currently, one based on Long Island. It's a thankless job dotted with fleeting flecks of accomplishment and even less in the way of gratitude. Now as an editor with plenty of small-time experience, the job has grown moss and I'm able to operate on autopilot for the most part.

Nothing stands out anymore. All the complaints are the same. From Maspeth to Malverne, there is not an interesting soul left in this human cesspool. But at times, the readers find a way to participant with a Letter to the Editor. This is where something strikes their fancy, and a reader just has to get his or her word into the local paper, so that all the other insufferable mutants can share in their pointless rage. Here is one I recently received:

While perusing the new summer fare that is being offered up in the name of entertainment, I was prompted to reflect on just one word, "morals." Where have they gone? I seem to recall growing up in the 50s with a solid sense of right from wrong. Oh sure, there were others who weren't totally in step with my Catholic school values but nonetheless, we all had some sort of standards that we lived by. I now observe the obvious void of decency in the every influential media. Being of a seasoned age I shouldn't overreact to what is being hailed as a "must see" flick or limited television series. Shocked, hardly, disgusted and disappointed most definitely. The "anything goes" mentality is flagrant. There was a time when major networks suggested that "adult themed" programs were being viewed after 9pm. Not anymore. Flashbacks to days when family television culminated in a life lesson to embrace, most certainly has gone by the wayside. To glorify nudity and pervasive language in today's society is considered the "norm," culture and refinement, a quality of the past. It is difficult not to be offended and assaulted while four-letter words are being bellowed from one's den. I don't want to "get with the times" if that means compromising my values and throwing my solid upbringing to the curb. I plan on hanging tightly on to my memories when creed and standards were meaningful, decent and something to be proud of.

That is a lucid, well-thought out letter compared to the syphilitic scrawl I usually uncover in my inbox. Unfortunately, it is also a misguided toast to a bygone time spied with rose-colored glasses and an infuriating condemnation of any generation that didn't grow up in those idyllic 1950s.

Oh yes, what a peaceful time. Such a wholesome era to have come to age. What trash. I am tired of shitty parents and shittier human beings of a certain age beating the dead dick of 1950s America. It was not paradise. All it did was fuel the delusional fuckwits who would eventually become the failed flower children of the 1960s, the mal-adjusted young adults of the 1970s, and the careless, childhood-destroying parents of the 1980s. Now, they live in a world of moral high grounds, detesting anyone with the balls to remind them of the damage they wreaked on their defenseless offspring.

Let's take a quick peek at everything that made the 1950s so darned wholesome and by-golly swell: polio, the Korean War, the Cold War, Jim Crow Laws, McCarthyism, J. Edgar Hoover, domestic violence, everyday sexism, a lack of civil rights, demonization of "homos," banal television, archaic medical practices. criminalized sexual expression, duck and cover, girdles, lame bathing suits and food additives (mmmm, nitrates).

Anyone born in or around the 1950s can't wait to tell you just how much better life was back then. They tell you about affordable movie and milk prices, but will conveniently leave out that story about dad beating the shit out of mom because she overcooked the roast. And women born in the 50s, I'm sure they can't wait to tell you about the time dad told her through a cloud of cigarette smoke that "no daughter of mine is gonna go to college."

The older generation of today, face it: The world is better today than it was in the 1950s. We have options you never dreamed of. And you're jealous. We don't have to get married. And you're jealous. We can go to college if we want to (and accumulate insane student loan debt) and you're jealous. We are free to be the freaky sexual beings that we are, and you're jealous. "Black music" isn't needlessly covered by white artists to protect us from the "colored folk," and you're jealous.

Well, I say enjoy your jealousy. Enjoy it like an unfiltered cigarette steeped in brown gravy. Inhale the bitter smoke and blow it out your tightly wound ass.

Goodnight and good luck,

The Cultured Pig









When A Buck Buys Breakfast

Besides a few shreds of talent in the written arena, and a mind geared toward the accumulation of useless trivia, I possess a unique hidden talent: no one flips from positive self-affirmation to crippling self-loathing faster or more violently than me. And nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in my eating habits.

I suffered through one of those moments earlier today. Hours before my job's deadlines added wrinkle lines to my head, and well before the tax man delivered a gut punch to my loins, I took an early morning break at McDonald's. With a dollar in my pocket and good intentions in mind, I bought a sausage biscuit.

Sausage, biscuit and shame, always shame."It's Friday," I thought to myself. "Why not stop at that demented clown's diabetes dispensary for a dollar menu item." I was feeling good about myself. And why not? This buttery biscuit, glistening under the soft glow of my cubicle lights like the sweaty brow of Ronald McDonald himself, is truly, and unashamedly, one of my favorite breakfast treats. It is as enticing as it is awful; and it renders the wax wrapping paper almost clear from the biscuit's oily exterior. An afterthought when compared to the biscuit, the sausage patty is, well, it's a sausage patty. On its own, the sausage is a non-event. It's barely spicy and tastes mostly of manufactured barnyard parts. But place it inside of the biscuit and what you are left with is a food item with the singular ability to seduce and disgust all at once.

It's all over in a matter of seconds. From unwrapping to inspection to complete annihilation, the "sandwich" quickly disappears; but it's not over. The shame awakened follows you like an undead apparition until you acknowledge its existence and make room for it at your desk, in your car, on your lap.

And that's where I find myself currently; in the grip of my greasy self-loathing. But as quickly as I fall to the dark, I can just as quickly turn back around and face the light. For I know a quick, cheap alternative exists and where the McDonald's sausage butter bomb packs self-hate, this item packs the siren song of a million super-model angels.

Three bucks for a load of belly love.Behold, Trader Joe's uncured bacon Ends & Pieces. These are the lovely chunks that don't make it into the perfectly manicured packages of bacon. They do not conform to a row of tidy strips alongside your bourgeoisie eggs. Ends & Pieces are the proletariat. They do not conform to you, you conform to them. And rather than tiny bacon bits and scraps, these beauties are big, meaty, fatty chunks of pig essence. In the grand power struggle between texture and flavor, Ends & Pieces succeeds at every measure. Think outside the standard pork belly products and experiment with Ends & Pieces in ways that will send shivers down the spines of Wilbur and Old Major.

There's a moral to this blog: welcome the dark side of fast food breakfasts, but expect the consequences to be swift and unforgiving. But most importantly, remember the alternatives. And don't be afraid to sample them by the chunk-full.

The End (& Pieces).

The Cultured Pig


The Beans Are Simmering

No one has to tell me to be thankful for the multitude of meals I've been lucky enough to shovel into my eager maw. Since recognizing food as a texture-rich pleasure zone of taste sensations rather than simply a means of survival, I have crossed forks with mighty steaks, miles of pork bellies, crisp-crazed chicken and enough eggs to give Humpty Dumpty fever dreams. The world is my oyster; and I regularly slurped it up with a dash of Tabasco and a chunk of horseradish.

But as it goes, life hides a tendency for seismic shifts in focus, meaning and means. The carefree days of stripping a Buffalo wing with one smooth bite are replaced with nights of simmering a can of second-hand beans, pitifully accepted as charity from a friend or family member. Those eggs I so luxuriously draped over pork chops and on burgers now stand as the meal's centerpiece; a lone soldier standing amid the wreckage of a long-forgotten battlefield. And the elaborate morning meals I once treated as a secret lover now appear as busted bar patrons at last call.

Read between the lines.It is a world of bananas, peanut butter, eggs and sriracha. Always sriracha. The Thai chili sauce is the last line of defense against the banalities of life. There isn't a single food item that repels sriracha. It is a glorious sauce worn by all edible bits with pride, a cloak of invisibility hiding the shame.

But rather than sulk about missing those event-type meals and treating a food pic posted by a friend as a personal affront to my own dismal menu, I look for beauty in the ordinary. A home-prepared meal featuring pasta, beans, tomatoes and eggs fills the belly like an edible comforter, assuring the eater that time marches on, means expand and hope resides in the discarded crust. Living under such restrictions changes perception. A lovingly constructed pizza bagel turns into my favorite meal of the year; rice and beans becomes more satisfying than I could have ever predicted; and the grand egg brings peace to the valley of breakfast for dinner.

Look to the egg; for it will guide you.Rent, car insurance, cable, cell service; these factors can keep an eater from attending that night out at a trendy wine bar or dark-wood pub. But to let the things that rip the guts from your bank account limit your creative culinary enjoyment, that is the true food tragedy.

So eat what you must, but enjoy what you eat. Just save enough money for wine. Also, treat yourself to a pizza once in a while and eat the entire pie as a challenge to debt collectors.

Stir the beans, squirt the sriracha,

The Cultured Pig