That’s a photo of a bottle of artisanal Brooklyn-made heirloom pepper probiotic hot sauce that was produced via a Kickstarter campaign. I’m going to get back to it by the end of this post.
The past few weeks have been hard, also cold. On Monday I met up with a good friend for dinner. I hadn’t seen her in a long time because she’d been in L.A. She’s thinking of going to live there for a while. “I’ve just been feeling like everything is really hard here,” she said. I usually try and peptalk people who say this. I’m worried about more of my friends leaving. I’m worried that if too many of them leave, I’ll have to leave too. But that night I didn’t have the energy to deliver the peptalk. She’s right, it is hard, stupidly hard. It’s cold here and a lot of people are awful. Good things disappear and bad things take their place. Rich people have too much power and they abuse it. The worst men you can imagine are fucking beautiful, talented women. Young people’s idealism and energy is siphoned off vampirically by exploitative bosses. Basic things are too expensive here, and expensive things are often offensively mediocre. Like the dinner we were eating. Or maybe I just wasn’t that hungry.
I hardly need to tell you that I love food, but sometimes I lose my appetite. Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether I’ve lost interest in food because I’m sad, or whether I’m sad because I’ve lost interest in food; it becomes a vicious cycle. At my lifetime serotonin-level nadir, January through approximately June of 2008, I lived mostly on health food store-brand frosted miniwheats and soymilk; I didn’t have the energy for anything else. I forgot why people cook or eat in restaurants. But then at some point I made soup with my visiting brother, and later tomato salad for a barbeque. Gradually, without really noticing it was happening, I started eating and cooking like a normal person. After that winter was over, I never bought that brand of cereal again.
I’m not chemically depressed now, but have been sick a lot and a bit anxious. It’s also just hard to get excited about food at this time of year: I’ve exhausted all the wintry stews and soups in my repertoire, there’s nothing in the farmer’s market but greenhouse lettuce, leggy kale, apples and roots that have already been stored a little bit too long. Grocery shopping, usually a highlight of my week, feels more like a chore. I resent having to spend money I don’t have on food I’m not excited to cook or eat. Winter citrus is even a little bit past its prime. It feels like time for something new to happen, but there are still months to go till spring.
On Saturday I didn’t have enough time or inspiration to shop for a real dinner, so I did something I almost never do: bought prepared food from the counter at Greene Grape Provisions, a store I tend to avoid because a) once in the produce aisle I ran into a long-ago acquaintance, recently arrived home from her honeymoon, who’d just bought a place in the neighborhood and was curious to know whether I was “still writing” and b) it is so idiotically, offensively expensive. I bought a $9 chicken leg and $11 worth of roasted cauliflower and fennel. I made a mental note to bury the wrappers deep in the trash after I put the food on plates so Keith wouldn’t see them.
The man who kickstarted this hot sauce was doing a demo in the store, singing his sauce’s artisanal sustainable probiotic praises. And I mean, bless him, I’m sure the sauce is delicious. But there I was, grudgingly buying one scanty dinner for money that could have provided ingredients for several meals if only I hadn’t been too lazy and disorganized and in denial about the inevitability of hunger. And in that moment, I irrationally hated this man and his hot sauce. I hated myself for living in a place that can be such a caricature of itself, where some people have so much and some people have so little and the rest of us pretend we have what we need, lest we allow ourselves to realize how likely it is that we’ll never get it. And I thought about the work I am doing to pay for what I’ve eaten here already.