Beer and Self Loathing: Eating my way through the U.S.A. – Part One

DSC_0093In September I packed in my job and headed overseas on an extended backpacking tour.

Some people travel for history and culture, to broaden their knowledge of the world and engage with people of varying backgrounds and belief systems. I travel for the excuse to stuff myself full of food under the mantra of ‘trying new things’. Instead of fridge magnets and souvenirs I collect kilos, travelling from town to town using my mouth and tum tum as compass.

My gut suggested ‘What better place to start on a journey of self-indulgence and gluttony than America, the land of excess?’ And I listened.

Come with me on a documented inventory of beer, bread, and self-loathing.

DRANK 

Yuengling

DSC_0019Exotic name. Plain taste. Easy drinking. The Bland Anne of beers.  The kind of beer you can drink while acquiring new skills. Yuengling actually made me better at playing pool. I purchased a six-pack for just over $6 at a corner store in Nashville that also sold single capsule diet pills and lottery tickets. There were three large men in high-vis vests at the front of the store telling a story that included yelling the words ‘Damn grrrl’ and ‘Get on it’ at very regular intervals. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Four Loko 

four-lokomanPrior to consuming the $2.50, 24oz., 12% sugary drink I laughed at the folklore surrounding Four Loko like a college frat boy. I started with the Watermelon flavoured variety in a hostel room in Hawaii. It tasted like a melted Chuppa Chup. Pretty soon I was listening to Rihanna and performing my best ‘stationary running crump man’ dance moves in front of my boyfriend, who nodded solemnly and ignored me in favour of a packet of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Next we shared a Fruit Punch Four Loko from a paper bag out the front of a taco shop. It tasted like cherry flavoured cough medicine and cajoled us into talking about our childhoods, etc. The third Four Loko was Peach flavoured and tasted exactly like Haribo Peach Rings. We consumed it while standing in a nature strip.

After we finished we decided it was a great idea to go to the worst hip-hop-pop club in town and consume several $1 white rum and pineapple drinks while trying to grind to Katy Perry. At one point I thought I witnessed my boyfriend denim crutch dancing with a Swedish backpacker and attempted to win him back by ‘dropping down and getting my eagle on’ in the middle of the dance floor. I fell over after the second drop-spread sequence and desperately tried to spin my sprawled body in circles on the underlit, plastic floor in a vane effort to pretend that was the move I was angling for all along. Needless to say I awoke several hours later wet and naked in a bathtub. When I looked in the mirror there were black mascara track marks running the entire length of my face.

Busch

DSC_0135Busch says their beer tastes ‘as clear and light as mountain air’. I agree. It certainly doesn’t taste much like beer. Maybe the urine of a very well hydrated man who has recently had a beer, but not real beer. I drank this in Chicago while it was snowing, catching snowflakes on my tongue that tasted about as substantial as the Busch. Which makes me think it is a survivalist, pseudo-woodsmen’s beer. The kind Justin Vernon drinks alone in a snow-clad cabin in the forest, watching fish roast over the fireplace.    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Pabst Blue Ribbon

PBR-ShirtThe blue-collar, red-neck, white-man’s wife beating beer turned ‘hipster beverage’. Admittedly I have been drinking PBR regularly, mostly because it is $3 a pint in bars and no more than $6 for a sixer in convenience stores. Pabst is the American version of Toohey’s New, both in colour, taste, and connotation. A cheap, go-to option with sundry cultural overtones.

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Stash IPA 

Stash IPAStash is an IPA brewed in Austin, Texas. If you enjoy drinking molasses straight from the trough you will love this beer. But I am not a barn animal and could not drink more than one of these bushie, impenetrable beers. As I was trying my best to chew it down I could hear the voices of everyone I know who knows anything about beer echoing in my head, asking me what the hell was wrong with me. “This beer is malten gold,” they scolded. “The elixir of bearded gods!” Which is why I felt so guilty when I washed more than just the dregs down the drain; I knew it was probably good, I just couldn’t finish it.

In hindsight it’s probably a good thing I couldn’t finish the Stash. I’m sure it has the power to inflict yeast infections on women with my constitution for heavy malt liquor. I drink XXXX Gold on a regular basis. I am not worthy of greatness.

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ATE

Po’Boy

Genes Genes Po Boy2

A Po’Boy, short for Poor Boy, is a Louisiana institution and also a sandwich. I sampled several Po’Boys in New Orleans. My boyfriend and I rented a tool shed in someone’s backyard with a bunk bed inside it, where we stayed four nights. It was right on the edge of a ‘bad neighbourhood’, just around the corner from a local corner store that sold $2.60 6” Po’Boys ranging from fried catfish, fried chicken, and fried popcorn shrimp. 

shrimp_poboyOne night when we were browsing the aisles of the store waiting for our Po’Boys the sweaty, hair-netted lady making them pushed past us. Taking a roll of toilet paper from the shelf she smiled back at us with several teeth, ‘Just got’sa tinkle before I finish yer sandwiches.’ To her credit they were pretty good sandwiches. We ate them on the front step of the converted garage, not talking because of the horn of the train that rattled past the cabin every ten minutes or so, shaking the whole wooden shack.

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Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby Ice Cream

chubbyhubbyEver been lounging on the couch in your underwear past midnight watching the play-offs and half way through a pint of chocolate-caramel ice cream been like, ‘This is good, but it could do with some chocolate covered pretzels the size of a baby’s fist’? Ben and Jerry got you covered.

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Doughnuts

DSC_0014Americans know doughnuts, and they don’t fuck around with your garden variety Dunkin or Wendy’s sugared cinnamon doughnuts either. So far I have seen doughnuts topped with ‘chicken strips and crackers’, ‘peanut butter and bacon’ and plain old ‘BBQ shredded pork’. In Austin Texas I ate a chocolate doughnut covered in chunks of chocolate, large pieces of chocolate brownie, chocolate syrup, and thick, un-cooked brownie batter. The first bite was gut-meltingly, sex-in-the-mouth good. The second bite made me want to die, and the third bite made me want to kill myself. After the whole doughnut I didn’t care either way anymore, as I had lost the will to engage in conscious or emotional deliberation on any level.

Pop Tarts

DSC_0038I know you can get Pop Tarts in Australia, but they are, like, $5 a packet or something, as opposed to a cholesterol friendly $1.45. I tried the peanut butter chocolate ‘Gone Nutty’ Pop Tart in East Nashville. I was onto my third melted, buttery tart when I happened to pick up the packet and read the ingredients, which is hardly ever a good idea when you are eating a breakfast food that describes itself as ‘a high five to the taste buds’. In the third line of ingredients, nestled between high fructose corn syrup and peanut butter, above something called ‘Yellow 5 Lake’, was the evil elixir of oils, Palm Oil. I paused mid gooey, cloying chew and was filled with an intense sense of remorse. The self-hatred intensified as I finished the last bite before swearing I would ‘never buy Pop Tarts again.’

This pledge led to my boyfriend googling a list of all products containing Palm Oil and me yelling at him to ‘Shut your mouth, for mercy!’ as he listed some of the greatest things on earth including Kit Kats and Oreos and told me not to be such a goddam hypocrite.

In summary, food-friends, being a glutton is not always a rich experience. I go to sleep tossing and turning in my hostel bunk bed at night, making severe promises to myself that tomorrow will be the day I embark on a five day juice fast. But I never do. Every day is a new chance to eat bread, drink beer, and engage in heavy self-loathing. All in the name of ‘nums.

Stay tuned for part two.

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