story by Simone Snaith
So there is a line in The Lost Soul Companion, by Susan M. Brackney, that goes, "I have sobbed uncontrollably at the thought of peeling a potato or boiling water for pasta. It all required more energy than I actually had. (Ironically, I lacked energy because I did not eat well enough)." I dog-eared this page years ago, because it is exactly the way I feel about cooking, and also grocery shopping for that matter. Sometimes, no matter how hungry I am, I just cannot deal.
I can tell you that this kind of mindset is not actually an eating disorder. As a writer/musician, I can attest that it's just one example of how the ordinary, day-to-day tasks can become so heavy and so absurd to artistic types, that we just can't stand the thought of them. They are just so damn far removed from all the ideas in our heads... And besides, did we not just deal with them yesterday? WTF? Why do we have to do them again? I don't claim to know for sure, but I suspect that this attitude (along with a lot of cigarette-smoking) is why so many of those indie kids are so skinny...
This may be a tangent, but I believe that attitude is suspiciously related to how I felt about my last retail job. I worked at a high-end boutique in a small, affluent beach city, and was constantly struck by the overwhelming absurdity of it all. I sat at our little staff meetings and listened to the most inane information possible about the approaching arrival of new boots and sidewalk sales, and realized, not only did I not care, but I couldn't even understand why anyone would care. It was so far removed from what mattered to me, it was like being on another planet. ...I have to be here again? I was just here yesterday!!
If one is struck with the realization that his wallet demands he should either buy lunch today or buy drinks later tonight, I am ashamed to say it is the artists' mentality to skip lunch.
Getting back to the point, it doesn't help our eating habits that, as starving artists, we don't have much money to spend on food in the first place. If one is struck with the realization that his wallet demands he should either buy lunch today or buy drinks later tonight, I am ashamed to say it is the artists' mentality to skip lunch. Why? Because eating is not really very exciting, but going out and having a few drinks can make you very happy. In fact, when you are starting to despair over the humdrum little existence you seem to have carved out for yourself, going out and having a few drinks can make you feel like the possibilities are endless. You could meet someone exciting. You could have a truly inspiring conversation with a friend who really gets you. You could drink too much and decide to walk with your friends to the nearby apartment of a couple of guys you just met, where one of them urges you to take his ex-girlfriend's left-behind clothes, because apparently, she is not ever coming back. ...And she has nice stuff (This really happened).
Again, infinitely better than going home, going to bed, getting back up, and going back to work. And then going home, going to bed, and so on and so forth - even if your car is towed and you end up spending a thousand times more than any lunch could have cost you that day...
But when I grocery shop, I find myself going, "I don't really need that. I don't really need this," to make sure I save money. Then I wonder why I go through what I bought so quickly, and have to run out again. I live in Koreatown, so I have started rummaging through the Korean markets near me for simple things like frozen dumplings or anything you can toss in a frying pan with oil. I have a habit of setting the smoke alarm off. I have also discovered the phenomenon that is the Trader Joe's mother ship (on the corner of 3rd and LaBrea), where everyone and their mother goes, and even certain local band members work. The first time I ever ran into someone I knew in L.A. was in that Trader Joe's parking lot, and I thought, "Wow! I'm really a local now." So I wind my way through the ridiculous amount of shoppers in that store and buy simple things like frozen burritos or frozen vegetables or frozen pizza... absolute minimum effort for a fairly minimum price.
And being from the south, I do occasionally cook a big pot of black-eyed peas or red beans, but only when I know I'm not going anywhere for awhile. That Snicker's slogan is very fitting in this case, for these things have to cook for about an hour and a half. And this is dangerous, because if I am working on a song or a story, they will actually end up cooking for about four hours. And the smoke alarm will go off. Or I will remember them right at the hour and a half mark, and it will be too late to add any onions or seasonings of any kind, so I am stuck with a pot of absolutely tasteless beans. Cooked properly or not, the truth is I will only be able to eat beans and rice for a couple days anyway before the sight of them makes me sob uncontrollably, give up on dinner altogether, and decide to go out drinking.
Despite all this, every now and then, a good hot meal will actually save me from my head in the clouds. Last Sunday, I drove around and around, doing a good deal of thinking, and jotting things down, only to realize after awhile that I was starving. I pulled over at Bright Spot in Echo Park where I ordered food and kept on making my notes. I did not even notice the other patrons or my surroundings until they served me a big plate of country fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn. I took one look and then wolfed it all down as if someone were going to take it away. And I left afterwards with a wonderful, accomplished sense of well-being - I was being productive and I was taking care of myself!
Somehow I doubt that kind of sight - a skinny, brooding, 20-something with a notepad, eating like they haven't in days - is terribly uncommon in that part of town.
Simone Snaith is a singer/songwriter and short story author in Los Angeles. Originally from Louisiana, and armed with a highly impractical degree in Creative Writing, she has run the gamut of day jobs, from substitute teaching to working in a lingerie shop. She currently works at a local independent record label and continues to write and occasionally publish short stories. Previously miscast as the front-woman of a post-hardcore band, Simone now has a solo acoustic project called The Fast Sails.