Irritants XXIII

This round of irritants is all about food.

The first and most obnoxious is mayonnaise. It is an utterly repulsive substance. I don’t know how I used to eat it as a very young child, but something changed along the way and now, I find it completely unfit for human consumption. The snot that sometimes slips into one’s mouth when suffering from a cold is far more palatable than mayonnaise. Oddly enough, it contains nothing I do not otherwise like. But the combination of the ingredients makes it disgusting. I have almost vomited because of it. Yet, people, in homes or food preparation businesses insist on slathering this vile gel onto all manner of edibles, mostly sandwiches. Why is it so difficult to simply put it on the side for those who like the stuff to apply onto bread or mix into sauces and dips? We don’t see mustard in its varied preparations applied so liberally, or at all, but it is available for who prefer it as a condiment. On top its being despicable, mayonnaise also contains a massive caloric kick, a real problem in this age of obesity. What makes this particularly annoying in Armenian circles is that it is not even part of our native cuisine. Please, ease up on the mayonnaising of our mouths. And, if you think I’m alone in finding the white slime gross, please read this article in Mother Jones.

Let’s move on to another commonly consumed item that is also not part of Armenian cuisine, yet has penetrated our communities’ eating habits. Fungus! Of course it is more commonly referred to as the more innocuous-sounding “mushrooms.” Otherwise, few people would eat these close relatives of the growths found on badly maintained places we bathe in. No one wants to picture her/himself grazing on bathtub or shower stall fungus. Yet people rave over these things which grow in the detritus of plants and animals. They feed directly on rot since they cannot photosynthesize. “Oh,” I am often admonished, “but mushrooms take on the flavor of whatever you cook them with…” The obvious response is that they are therefore unnecessary; eat the food that has the desirable flavor without the presence of fungus. But, some might argue, certain mushrooms have medicinal value. Great! Take and dry out those “shrooms” then put the resulting powder into capsules or mix it with other nutritious items for consumption. Just keep those often poisonous lumps of tree-trunk growth off my plate!

Seedless watermelon! What an abomination! Think of how deprived children are nowadays. No more watermelon fights with seeds being spat at one another. Where’s the joy, the fun? More seriously, why would I want to consume something that is so anomalous on our planet Seedless watermelon cannot reproduce. Very few plants are like that and those perpetuate themselves by other means. It turns out these things are produced by using the male and female portions of watermelon to produce a plant with an unnatural number of chromosomes which results in sterile fruit containing just the beginnings of seeds, those white ones you sometimes get in seedless watermelon. And, on the Armenian front, it also deprives us of seeds to pan-fry/toast to then chomp on when we’re sitting around socializing. Things have gotten so bad that it is now more difficult to find a normal watermelon in grocery stores than the seedless abominations that were developed some 50 years ago.

While we’re on the topic of seedlessness, what of grapes? Like watermelons, finding normal grapes has now become more difficult than the ones that cannot reproduce but are perpetuated through cuttings. It is a cloning process. This means that should a blight or pest someday evolve, it could wipe out those grape populations since they are genetically identical and unable to develop resistance to the attacker. It seems seedless grapes may date as far back as Roman times, but their modern propagation, marketing and consumption started in the late 1800s. Grapes are a big part of Armenian life, from straight-up eating them to making wine, or wrapping the leaves as sarma or filling them with eech for a lovely tart morsel. Let’s not forget the shade arbors created by training the vines onto them to create a cool afternoon space. The final bit of ridiculousness regarding seedless grapes is in the health arena. “Grape seed extract” is made and sold for its beneficial properties. Why not just chomp away on the seeds as we eat the grapes and get those benefits for free?

Let’s stop some of the silliness invading and pervading our food.

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Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
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