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We're Not in the Food Pyramid Anymore: What's a foodie to do when the only thing on the menu is pills?

Food, Horrible Food

Even food writers hate their jobs when they're sick. Ours isn't afraid to talk about it.

By Steve Billings

This week I got very sick and feverish and decided to review some restaurants as part of a new extreme look at food.

For too long, writers have been emphasizing rather pedestrian elements of dining such as the cuisine, the atmosphere, the service, even the actual chef. Since writers are always searching for fresh perspectives and new frames of reference, I leveraged my sickness as just this; a challenge, a new lens, an unexplored food-writing frontier, the exploration of which could put me on the map for doing something new, innovative, edgy. I asked myself a tough question: Who else has been writing food reviews with any verve or sensibility from a place of entirely deadened sensory capacity?

I could think of no one. It's an unfished pond. An entirely new method of culinary evaluation awaits, untapped. Wonderful, fresh, pressing questions beckon to be answered. How will the food stand up to my muted senses? Will this cherry throat lozenge accentuate or detract from my glass of riesling?

Obviously I'm delirious, hijacked by germs. I'm actually at home, flat on my back, breathing through my mouth while my mind conceives of retarded cable reality food and dining shows whose essence is utterly egomaniacal. In fact, eating has been the farthest thing from my mind. Food has shed all its glorious specificity and nuance and become an amorphous something I would gladly pull out of and eat from a bag labeled as such: "Food: Heat and Serve. Ingredients: Food, Natural Food Flavorings." Perfect. As long as it doesn't taste like much and doesn't require intense chewing, I'll take it.

When I'm not giving over to obsessive ramblings, my sickness has reminded me to appreciate the warming, hearty goodness of something both well made and bland. You got it, the blander the better. Put it in the blander, it makes it taste good. This has been a banner week for buttered toast and miso soup with lots of cooked rice tossed in for bulk. Foods with flavor just aren't enjoyable or worth my time; they are like listening to music on a pair of headphones on which only one ear works. If anything stands out, it's the oddly shaped edges, the rough patches like bitterness and acidity. Where the hell's the base line? I need grounding.

My saving grace has actually come by way of beverage. Solids are second class, for both boredom and pain can be broken with the right cup of liquid, be it hot or cold. That being said I want to take this opportunity to thank the Italians for San Pellegrino, Reed for his ginger beers, and whoever the nut-holes are who make Emergen-C, those little powdery packets of citrusy vitamin-filled goodness when, mixed with water, creates a fizzy-citrusy elixir of goodness. When I drink these bubbly bevies, it's like I've hired my own mercenary army to fight the Borg-minded blob that's hunkered down in the back of my throat and keeps flanking me through infrequently traveled sinus pathways. As I sip, the Borg is no match for my minions, especially when fresh lime is added and attack efforts are focused through a straw.

Turn over, cough, blow nose a lot, pass out for 20 minutes, then repeat.

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From the February 16-23, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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